The grand-niece of Joe Cahill: "Joe Cahill would turn in his grave. How dare they sully all who believe in republicanism" said one Sunday Tribune reader

Suzanne Breen's revelations last week that two more women from leading republican families felt "let down" by Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin after revealing rape and sexual and physical abuse by a leading party member and a senior republican have drawn a massive response from readers.

Support for the women – one the grand-niece of former IRA chief of staff Joe Cahill, the other the daughter of a now dead Belfast IRA commander – has been overwhelming, though a minority of readers accuse this newspaper of trying to discredit the Sinn Féin party and Gerry Adams.

These are some of the comments that followed last Sunday's page one story. As is the norm with online commentary, most writers use pseudonyms but these extracts reflect the debate. Some have been edited for space reasons.

17 January

Pippakin (Eileen Ryan), at 6:58pm: I feel so sad for these women. I hope they find the justice and peace they are seeking and richly deserve.

If there are any outstanding cases of child abuse or indeed violence against women in either loyalist or republican areas, I hope the victims will be inspired by these ladies and Áine Tyrell to come forward and demand justice... It takes courage to take on the powerful.

Decent republican at 7:35pm: Well done Suzanne Breen. Sinn Féin have a lot to answer for, their street cred is demolished. Adams and co must go. Once again it's republican women who are showing great courage in coming forward.

Danny O'Connor at 8:14pm: ...This story is hugely in the public interest. This is the man who nominates ministers to the NI executive. He could be in the position, after the next election, of nominating a minister for policing and justice. I want also to pay tribute to Suzanne Breen for having the courage to tackle this issue head on.

Silencedinbelfast at 9:06pm: I'm still in shock. I got the paper this morning and the horror overwhelmed me like a bucket of ice water in the face. How can anyone vote for these people let alone give them a say in policing? This is truly courageous reporting and a total contrast to the peace process acolytes in the Northern media. I suspect only a southern paper could have published this. The hegemony up North is that each of us must do our duty and become a brick in the wall of silence. We mustn't dwell on Robert McCartney or Paul Quinn; instead we must think of the greater good, and if you speak out you too could be sacrificed. Alternatively a mob of Sinn Féin zombies could picket your house. It's what they did to Anthony McIntyre and the family of Robert McCartney.

Philip at 10:05pm: ... Given that one of the victims requested that no details of her story should be published, how can you justify publishing it? Or do you think that circulation figures are more important than consideration for the victim?

Lazarus Robinson at 10:13pm: Did Gerry not inform social services and the RUC of these terrible things many moons ago, are you not a little late with this 'news'? Are you sure you are not actually 'blaming' Gerry and not Liam for much of this. Where are the perpetrators – they are known, why not pursue them rather than the highest ranking 'public' relation?

18 January

Gordon at 12:18am: The corporate media establishment have been using this story merely as a stick to beat Sinn Féin. It's all about politics, nothing to do with victims.

The Wee Man Belfast at 12:29am: I am appalled at the revelations, however I am not totally surprised. I know the way the republican movement thinks – there is a form of 'organisational paranoia and distrust' with everyone and everything non-republican. I am a former republican prisoner and my family and I endured decades of hardship, harassment and imprisonment.

I recall during the late 1970s, myself and other young activists being taken to task about drinking in our late teens because we were the "public face of the struggle".

I believe the leadership of Sinn Féin must come clean... Any inaction will send out a signal that the organisation comes before local citizens, republican or otherwise.

19 January

Katy at 2:17am: These victims and their families were caught between a rock and a hard place. IRA leadership would never have allowed them to get away with reporting this to the RUC or to approach services for help for these poor wee girls.

But IRA leadership also seriously failed these girls, their families and their communities. They chose what they continue to see as a "necessary evil" by protecting the abuser instead of the child. And does anyone actually believe that Gerry Adams didn't know that his own brother had continued to work within the organisation several streets from his own home?

Your response to the story of the daughter of a Belfast IRA commander, abused and sexually molested from the age of 10

17 January

LC at 5:43pm: The victim is quoted as saying: "The PSNI have the hospital records of my injuries, the psychiatrists' and social workers' reports, and details of social services meetings to discuss my case. As well as my statement, they have statements from my brothers..."

So there's the real story – what has the PSNI done about it? What did she get from social services? What has the public prosecution service been doing for the past seven months?

The broken system is the story, not any alleged cover-up by Sinn Féin or the republican movement.

Ed Kelly at 6:41pm: This is such a horrific tale that it is hard to understand how an adult could treat a child in such a depraved way and to learn that this person went on to be an elected representative for Sinn Féin is truly sickening.

And how you reacted to the story that Liam Adams was a member of Sinn Féin at a time when Gerry Adams claimed to have cut all ties with him

18 January

Josie at 11:05pm: I have read all the allegations. As far as I am concerned, most of my married life was spent in a war-torn, unjust society. Gerry Adams and others helped bring the war to an end. I am truly sorry for the victims of abuse but I will still vote for people, like Adams, who speak for people who, in my youth, had no voice at all.

Your comments on how the abuse of Joe Cahill's grand-niece was handled by Sinn Féin, the provisional IRA and Gerry Adams

17 January

Emg at 8:17pm: Joe Cahill would turn in his grave. How dare they sully all who believe in republicanism.

Andrea at 10:34am: Why is it reported that it's just Sinn Féin and the church etc somehow covering up abuse? This also happens in ordinary families. Talk of safe houses and on-the-run IRA male sex offenders sleeping in with the children have been rife for several years now and the story was always going to break.

My point is that for abuse victims, it's the awful hurt that is endured post-disclosure. I was abused by a family member and NOTHING has been done about this person. That is my very own parents doing NOTHING. They believe me, but are unwilling or haven't the capacity to deal with this. I haven't spoken to them for over a year. Even as I write this I'm crying.

How awful that the men and women who Ms Cahill looked to wouldn't take any action.

How awful for the victims in the Dublin diocese and in the north who had complained about rapist priests and then watched them remain in their elevated positions. It's so difficult and frightening to come forward.

But dealing with the post-disclosure hurt, separation and isolation is difficult too because the abuse is past, but the ignoring of the victim by people now is current and heartbreaking and hurts all the more. Having said that, for anyone considering coming forward, the simple thing is that you must. There is good in this world.